WARNING: This article contains SPOILERS for Season 7, Episode 6 of Game of Thrones.
The Eastwatch team went farther up north than we’ve ever seen in last night’s exhilarating episode of Game of Thrones, “Beyond the Wall”. The penultimate episode of the penultimate season pitted the Night King closer to Jon Snow and company than even at Hardhome, where the Night King first showed his might.
Much of the beginning of the episode was dedicated to the men beyond the wall having conversations as they treaded the snowy terrain searching for a wight. Tormund laughably said he had been south before, suggesting Winterfell (the capital of The North) was south. Jon Snow’s wildling friend then asked what the King in the North thought of The Mother of Dragons, and indicated he believes Jon should bend the knee to Daenerys while citing Mance Rayder. “How many of his people died for his pride?”, Tormund asked rhetorically.
Tormund makes a good point. Mance Rayder not kneeling to Stannis got him and many wildlings killed. Jon obviously believes Daenerys can be a great Queen, but is afraid the Northern lords would not like it if he bends the knee to a Southern ruler (and a Targaryen). Throughout the episode, Jon is naturally swayed and it comes full circle at the end of the episode.
The conversation between Jon and Jorah was a great moment, as Jon offered Longclaw, the ancestral sword of House Mormont, back to Jorah. Because the pommel was changed from a bear to a wolf before Jeor gave the sword to Jon, Jorah likely didn’t even know it was his father’s sword. But Jon, being the honorable person that he is, decided to offer it up anyway. Remember: Jon had been through a lot with that sword—the defense of the Wall against the wildlings, Hardhome, the Battle of the Bastards—so it couldn’t have been easy to make that offer.
Jorah—despite being a disgraced and exiled lord—has also become quite the honorable man, and declined the sword because he brought “shame” to his house, broke his father’s heart, and “forfeited the right” to claim the family sword. “It’ll serve you well. And your children after you,” Jorah said; which to me, with the way he said it, was another sign that Jorah thinks Jon and Daenerys should be together. Though it’s unclear if Daenerys can have children (she seems to believe the Season 1 prophecy that she cannot). I think most viewers blew a sigh of relief, just as Jon did, because it wouldn’t be right if Longclaw wasn’t by the The White Wolf’s side.
At Winterfell, the relationship between Arya and Sansa is about as bad as possible. The scenes mixed in with the events beyond the Wall, as things progressively became worse between the Stark sisters. Arya told a great story about how she found a left over bow in a target while no one was around, and then shot 20 or 50 times—running back and forth, shooting just the one arrow—until she hit the bull’s-eye, as her father was watching the whole time and applauded when she finally did it.
It was a nice story but took a quick turn, as Arya told her sister “now he’s dead. Killed by the Lannisters—with your help.” Arya was very angry and annoyed, and read aloud the letter (the one Littlefinger wanted her to find last week) Sansa wrote in Season 1 to Robb on behalf of the Lannisters. “I would’ve let them kill me before I betrayed my family,” Arya maintained, as she stated age is not an excuse while noting little Lyanna Mormont is younger now than Sansa was at the time.
To be fair, Sansa was just stupid (as Arya tells her), she didn’t really betray her family. Arya’s scolding brought out the pride/hubris in Sansa—who asserted she won back Winterfell, and told Arya that Jon lost the Battle of the Bastards until the Knights of the Vale swooped in because of her. Sansa also said Arya cannot imagine the things she has gone through, and it’s difficult to blame her for feeling this way.
Littlefinger got exactly the reaction he was looking for with Sansa and Arya fighting. He remains a major issue for basically anyone but himself, as he looks to eventually claim the Iron Throne. Brienne, the one person still at Winterfell besides Arya that knows Littlefinger is not to be trusted, now needs to go to King’s Landing in Sansa’s stead at her request after Cersei called for Sansa to appear. Hopefully sending Brienne—who is supposed to protect the Stark sisters at Catelyn’s request—away doesn’t come back to hurt Sansa.
In an alarming scene near the very end of the episode, Sansa snuck into Arya’s room in search of the letter, but only found Arya’s collection of faces. Without making a sound, Arya was in the room and walked towards Sansa with the dagger she received from Bran (who received it from Littlefinger), talking of how she could wear Sansa’s face and be her. It appeared Sansa might have been done for, but Arya just handed her the knife. Perhaps it was just intimidation, but it’s hard to imagine the relationship getting any worse than this.
Beyond the Wall, Beric Dondarrion and Jon Snow are the two people we are aware of that were brought back to life, so their conversation was thought-provoking. The King in the North said he doesn’t know anything about the Lord of Light or what he wants from him, but Beric knows “he wants you alive.” Beric isn’t exactly sure why they are fighting, but he said he knows one thing: they are soldiers, and he’s not fighting for someone to sit on the Iron Throne.
“Life” is what Beric is fighting for. “Death is the enemy. The first enemy and the last,” to which Jon accurately stated, “but we all die.” Beric believes their purpose is to fight death, even though it always wins—not for themselves, but for others. “You and I won’t find much joy while we’re here. But we can keep others alive. We can defend those who can’t defend themselves,” the Brotherhood Without Banners leader tells King Snow. The former Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch repeated part of the Watch’s oath (“I am the shield that guards the realms of men”) before both resurrected men agreed “maybe that’s enough” to keep fighting.
For someone that doesn’t really smile much and is almost always on edge after he was betrayed and brought back to life, this could be a bit of a turning point for Jon. He previously made it clear he never wants to be brought back to life, and maybe he still doesn’t, but his purpose seemed to be re-energized by his talk with Beric. As we get towards the end of Game of Thrones, this conversation could come into play again.
As the Eastwatch members are getting close, per Sandor’s vision, Daenerys and Tyrion are having a talk in Dragonstone about everything. After taking the semi-complement from Daenerys about not being a hero, Tyrion told his Queen that Jon Snow—like the other “heroes”—is in love with her. The fireside talk in the strategy room quickly became uneasy as it shifted towards the potential meeting with Cersei in King’s Landing.
Tyrion told Daenerys there is a promise from Jaime that nothing will happen to her at the meeting (if something does happen, her dragons would be ready to burn King’s Landing to ashes, however), but that he also promised Jaime that Daenerys wouldn’t do anything “impulsive.” The Lannister dwarf warned his Queen that Cersei may say something provocative and told Dany “you have been known to lose your temper from time to time—as all great leaders do.”
It was very unwise for Tyrion to say this to Daenerys, who I don’t think has lost her temper. Tyrion brought up the Tarlys, but Daenerys gave them a choice—she didn’t just burn them without giving them the option of not burning them. Then perhaps even more unwisely, Tyrion inquired about plans of succession in the event something was to happen to Daenerys.
While, as Tyrion notes, Daenerys could’ve easily died in the loot train battle, Khaleesi rightfully doesn’t want to hear about her own death, considering she’s still young and not even on the Iron Throne yet—especially before she heads into a potential death trap meeting with Tyrion’s family. Unfortunately, it’s currently not working out so well for Tyrion as Hand, despite his desire to see Daenerys succeed.
Meanwhile, things started to get real when the Eastwatch team, in heavy wind and snow, encountered a wight bear. I’m not exactly sure what you call it, but the bear was huge—similar to a Direwolf compared to a normal wolf. With the help of fire swords (and it appeared dragonglass by Jorah), the beast was defeated, but not before Thoros of Myr took some serious damage.
After the storm calmed down and they continued marching, a group of wights led by a White Walker were discovered—and the assault by the Eastwatch team started. They swooped in and fought the eight or so wights, while Jon Snow went toe-to-toe with the White Walker. Good thing Jon kept Longclaw, as he was able to use the Valyrian steel sword to shatter the White Walker. Just as the White Walker was killed, all the wights but one were also shattered—this is something new that no one was aware of.
Unfortunately, the rest of army of the dead was now in sight, so Jon sent Gendry (who had to give up his beloved Warhammer) to run back (because he was the fastest) to Eastwatch and send a raven to Daenerys and tell her they captured a wight… but are in big trouble. In a frightening chase, they were able to make it to the center of a small sturdy island, while the army of the dead broke the ice and fell through, unable to reach them.
Gendry barely got back to Eastwatch to get word that a raven had to be sent to Daenerys. But in a chilling picture, Jon and the rest of the members were stranded while surrounded by about 5,000-10,000 wights. They woke up to see all the dead just staring and waiting to attack, and unfortunately the injured Thoros didn’t last through the night. In an unintentionally funny moment, Sandor—out of all people—gave some words of comfort when he told Beric, “they say it’s one of the better ways to go.” Has The Hound come a long way or what?
As they contemplated what to do while stranded and certainly set to freeze to death, Jorah suggested to Jon they go after the White Walkers and try to escape. Because the wights shattered after Jon killed the White Walker earlier, they assumed perhaps by killing the White Walkers, the wights they turn also die (again). In an ambitious and somewhat amusing moment, Beric pointed his sword at the Night King and said, “kill him. He turned them all.” It also foreshadows the likely main objective against the White Walkers and their army in the great war: kill the Night King.
Despite the suggestion, Jon decides they should wait and hope for Daenerys as their best chance of escaping with the wight. After all, the purpose of their mission was to capture a wight. And Daenerys coming is much more likely than them fighting their way out of their situation and killing a few White Walkers.
Thankfully, Daenerys received the raven and was ready to leave for beyond the Wall, but not before a very emotional Tyrion tried to convince her to stay. “If you die, we’re all lost. Everything,” Daenerys’ Hand tried to reason. As Lady Olenna told her to do earlier this season, Daenerys is being a dragon. Really, it’s the only decision to make. As important as Daenerys is, she wouldn’t be a great leader if all she did was sit around and do nothing. So, she took her three dragons and headed north for the first time to save Jon, Jorah (who has saved her on a few occasions), and the others.
Sandor, despite his slightly emotional sympathy for Beric earlier, made a terrible decision to throw a couple rocks, inadvertently showing the wights the ice was frozen enough to charge. And then, it was on. The wights charged as the few men left tried to hold them off for as long as possible. It looked like we were going to lose Tormund there for a minute, but he got out of it.
Still, hope appeared to be lost, even with us knowing Daenerys was on the way. The focus on Jon and his point of view with the army of the dead closing in was masterfully done, and it instilled the despondent feeling into the viewer. That is, until Daenerys and Drogon came swooping in to completely turn the situation around. The three dragons inspired awe and sent goosebumps as they laid waste to the army of the dead. You could see in Jon’s face that he very much admired Daenerys in that moment.
While Daenerys and Drogon were ready to take everyone and fly away from the situation, Jon had to hold off some wights so they could get away. Then, in one of the saddest and most tragic moments in Game of Thrones, the Night King threw an ice blade that struck and killed Viserion. Drogon let out a heartbreaking screech as tons of blood poured out of his brother.
Daenerys was in utter and complete shock, while Jon was seething with anger. It looked like he wanted to fight the Night King after what he just did, but after seeing the White Walker leader being handed another ice blade, Jon yelled for Daenerys to fly away—then was tackled by a couple of wights into the ice-cold water and out of site. Daenerys hesitated slightly when she saw what happened to Jon, but they flew away and luckily Drogon dodged the Night King’s attack like a boss.
It was unclear what would happen to Jon at this point. He could’ve been dead, or worse: he could’ve been turned into a White Walker. The image of Longclaw delivered a brief moment of grief before Jon emerged from the freezing water and clawed his way out. The King in the North again appeared to be in a hopeless situation as he was looking at many remaining wights. But out of nowhere, Uncle Benjen/Coldhands appeared and saved Jon.
Jon hadn’t seen his uncle since Season 1. Uncle Benjen was used as the lie by Ollie and the others before they murdered Jon at Castle Black, so he was one of the last things the former Lord Commander thought about before he died. There wasn’t much time for an embrace, but Jon knew he had to trust his half-dead uncle. Benjen first saved Bran last season, and now he saved Jon. Much like Beric was talking about earlier with Jon, Benjen served his purpose and certainly did quite a lot by saving two of the Starks before his demise.
The others were back at Eastwatch, likely thinking Jon Snow was dead. Daenerys didn’t want to give up hope, though, and against all odds and in very bad shape, Jon returned. Once the King in the North was safely on a Targaryen ship and lying in bed, Daenerys got confirmation with her own two eyes about what Davos said that had stuck with her—Jon was indeed stabbed in the heart.
When Jon opened his eyes, Daenerys was the only one there and waiting. Jon, who truly understands—more than anyone else in the world—what Daenerys’ dragons mean to her, told her how sorry he was that the situation occurred, wishing he could take it back and not have gone. But Daenerys responded she never would’ve seen the White Walkers or the army of the dead if she hadn’t gone. The Mother of Dragons then let Jon know they will destroy the Night King and his army and “do it together.”
For the first time in forever, Daenerys was called “Dany” (by Jon), which shows how close the two have grown together in their short time knowing each other. Daenerys believes her brother (“not the company you want to keep”) was the last person to call her that, so Jon said, “how about my Queen?”
After his conversation with Tormund at the beginning of the episode and after seeing for himself Daenerys be fearless and come to the rescue, Jon knows it’s the right thing to do and that his people will come around. The bond between the two remaining Targaryens already might be the strongest in Westeros, and it might be just what is needed to defeat the Night King.
Jon and Daenerys are both absolute legends that have shown great leadership and done extraordinary things. Though they lost a dragon, the most mystical creature in the world, the battle beyond the Wall was another epic event for the both of them. The two Targaryens will be talked about for thousands of years, assuming there is anyone left to tell the story.
The final scene of “Beyond the Wall” heightened the woe caused the death of Viserion. After Daenerys’ dead dragon was dragged out of the water, the Night King placed his hand on it and changed it into a wight. It wasn’t totally surprising when it happened, but it still is not a sight you want to see, as the White Walkers have a weapon of mass destruction of their own. Viserion waking with a blue eye will certainly be one of the most memorable episode endings of the series.
Next week’s currently untitled season finale will be the longest Game of Thrones episode by quite a bit, surpassing the 71-minute run-time of “Beyond the Wall” by ten minutes—so a lot is going to happen. Based on the previews, Jon Snow is there in King’s Landing, but Daenerys isn’t in sight. Given the Lannister’s propensity to play dirty, it’d probably be better if Dany isn’t there, and I just hope we aren’t in store for something like the Red Wedding.